Friday, 30 March 2012

Resource Mobilisation Training. Resource Mobilisation Training. (Because twice is better than once)

One of the really great things about VSO is the opportunity to learn from other volunteers and utilise their skills and experience in your own placement.  A couple months ago Helen, another volunteer working in the area of Resource Mobilisation, and I realised we were both planning to hold upcoming training in resource mobilisation for staff in our organisations.  We thought about it and recognised almost immediately that while training delivered by 1 volunteer is good, training delivered by 2 volunteers is really good, and so we decided to team up and co-facilitate both training days.

Helen leading a session at her organisation.
In February I attended the VSO annual conference at which Helen was one of the facilitators – she was excellent and I was very excited to have her enthusiasm, dynamism and creativity in my organisation for a day.  In addition – I thought it would be a great opportunity to have some of the ideas I’ve been trying to bring into ICL (such as cash is not the only resource to mobilise) echoed by another volunteer. And we all listen better to voices we don’t hear as often.

Francis, one of Helen's colleagues, practising his organisational elevator pitch.
The process started about 2 months before the training when we each individually started preparing our training sessions, specifically identifying what the learning objectives for the training would be and some activities we might include to achieve those.  In my department plan for 2012 I have included 4 pieces of in-house training across this year, and it was suggested in January by the CEO that the first training look at developing, building and keeping relationships with donors.  I was asked to include in the training the resource mobilisation team, project managers and executive management team (15 people in total) in order to start to build the capacity of senior staff in approaching potential donors.  Working with that brief, I decided to widen the training to look more broadly at supporters of all kinds (not just monetary donors) – however the principles are the same.  The learning outcomes I developed for the day were 

1.Increased knowledge about types of supporters and their varied importance.
2.Increased knowledge of how to pitch to potential supporters
3.Increased confidence to approach (methods and content) and build relationships         with potential supporters.
4.Increased resources through relationships developed and nurtured.
5.Increased supporter satisfaction.

Two of Helen's colleagues enjoying their training,
 About a month before the training Helen and I met together for half a day to plan out the two training days.  This was one of the most beneficial aspects of the process; it helped me clarify what I wanted to achieve in the training and how to best to realise those outcomes.  I had spent so much time planning and researching for the training that I was getting a bit lost in it and found it difficult to come up with fresh ideas.  Helen had a lot of ideas for how to make sessions interesting and engaging and new, for example an activity about how to nurture a relationships supporters which involved audio recording “a donor” (my housemate Andrea) describing their experiences with different NGOs.

Helen next to the agenda for the day's training.
I was able to support Helen in flushing out her training as well.  Her training day was focussed on providing core fundraising understanding and skills to all staff at her placement.  Helen works for a national union of the blind, an organisation with large reach but quite a small central staff team with varying experience in raising funds.  As part of the training she was specifically interested in supporting the staff to understand how to put a project plan together – which I have quite a bit of experience in and was able to support.  We developed a basic template with 5 steps: identify the need the project will meet, state the aim of the project, identify a few outcomes (changes that will occur as a result of the project), specify what activities will be carried out to achieve the outcomes, and create a budget.

Me, standing next to visual representations of the various types of support NGOs should look for - a key theme of the day of training at I Choose Life.
The trainings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with Helen’s organisation first.  Helping to facilitate training for Helen’s organisation was really interesting as several of her colleagues are either blind or visually impaired and things I have taken for granted when delivering training sessions previously became apparent, such as using flip chart or handouts. I’ve not worked in an organisation working with persons living with disability before, and all of a sudden the concept of accessibility was more than government orders we begrudgingly comply with, trying to decipher how far we have to go to make “reasonable adjustments”.  Rather I saw accessibility as something that either enables or disables someone from participating.  

Group work during training at I Choose Life.  This particular exercise involved analysing the types of relationships we have various supports and how to learn from those.
Her organisation was extremely welcoming and friendly.  Compared to my placement, which has a much more corporate culture and image and is a much more fast-paced and stressful place to work, Helen’s organisation is typical of what we think we sign up for with VSO – grassroots capacity building one small slow step at a time.  While there are great things about my placement, I was able to see what this experience might have been like if I had that typical VSO placement – and there are some lovely things about it.

Mutie, a member of the Resource Mobilisation at I Choose Life, practising his organisational pitch.

On Wednesday we delivered training at I Choose Life (ICL).  We had quite a full agenda, but I think the agenda successfully included enough variance in activities while still rearticulating and punctuating the theme for the day.  Despite the fact that some of the attendees regularly work closely with me on developing proposals and other have no experience in fundraising, the topic of relationship building seemed to be new and pertinent to everyone in the room.

Facilitating a session on how we talk about our organisation to the public.
One of the highlights of the day was an activity in which we explored how we talk about ICL when we meet new people – the kinds of things we talk about and the language we use.  ICL has a wide range of activities and beneficiaries and can be complicated to explain succinctly and passionately to those who don’t know us.  There was good discussion around the importance of creating an institutional platform (the common things that are included in what the public hear or read about the organisation), while wanting to avoid creating robots required to recite a script. Each attendee was given 10 minutes to prepare their own 1 minute pitch about I Choose Life, starting with the phrase “I work at I Choose Life because...”.  While being quite a lot of fun, the activity also gave everyone the opportunity to think about what they would tell someone about the organisation and practice what they might say.

World Cafe(ish) activity exploring various themes around how to grow our
relationships with supporters.

Helen was a great asset throughout the whole process – her ideas and enthusiasm really added value to the training, and she developed quite a fan club at ICL!!  My co-workers are already asking when she can come back (although thankfully they haven’t asked if they can trade me for her!). 

At the end of the training many shared that they felt they had really learned and benefited from the training, with several staff members not directly involved in resource mobilisation saying they felt they understood how they could help build relationships with all kinds of potential supporters – which is a great result.

Peris preparing for her organisational pitch.

We received some interesting feedback from the training as well, which highlighted some of the challenges delivering training in a different culture.  For example, one staff member mentioned that some of the sessions were left-open ended without the right answers being presented.  This specifically referenced an activity in which attendees discussed some sticky donor relationship topics in groups and then shared their thoughts with the group.  Helen and I elaborated on some of their thoughts, and I provided a few examples from my own work – but no fixed and firm answer was given on how to respond in those certain situations.  What I found really interesting about this feedback is that when I attend training it actually really frustrates me as well when facilitators summarise input without providing a concrete solution.  I am generally not a big fan of group work – I always wonder what is being said in the other groups and if their groups are more “right” than my group.  My boss highlighted that part of this cultural – his experience of training with North Americans and Europeans is that the facilitators are encouraging and find it difficult to challenge a bad idea, whereas training delivered in other cultures might involve just being presented with facts with very little discussion, participation or collaborative thought.  I think in this particular case that there was value in presenting the topics for discussion, but that there aren’t necessarily concrete answers – all relationships are different with different dynamics and there can’t be a one size fits all response, however I will definitely take this feedback into account when working on the next piece of training.

Helen and I at the end of 2 days of delivering training.  A job well done partially explains our radiant glow - although is was also very very hot!
This will be my last post for a few weeks as I will be taking a bit of a holiday – but don’t forget about me, I will be back in full force the end of April!

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